A Question of Beauty


Looking in the mirror it’s hard sometimes not to see our flaws and imperfections as they stare back at us. Maybe it’s a little bit of the world around us with its ever changing standards, not so subtly pushing us towards its own perceptions of beauty. It imposes itself on us, flooding us with images and ideas of what it means to be pretty or handsome. It tries to take and mold those who do not fit those standards, trying to make and re-make them in its own image until finally, in a sense of deeper conformity, it pushes people to meet with that image.

Yet the truth is, for as much as that may be the case, it has more to do with us than it does anything else. After all, we are the ones looking and seeing, wanting to somehow be different than we are, using whatever these standards are as a measure of ourselves to try and change, to want to change, somehow thinking there’s something wrong with us.

You see, what we need to remember is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) in the image of our Heavenly Father. (Genesis 1:26) Still, even amidst that, each of us are as unique and as special as the love that God has for us, formed by the wonders of His touch and with the gifts that He intended for us. That’s what makes us truly special, it’s what makes the truest beauty, and the most wondrous of elegance.

It is the image that we see when we look in our hearts, when we look at our deeds, not necessarily the one that we see when we look in the mirror. After all, that can be deceiving and can be trapped in vanity. It can be fleeting, soon to disappear as it washes away with the tides of time. (Proverbs 30:21) It can hide a heart that is cold and hurtful.

That isn’t to say that all who are by the standards around us considered beautiful, are that way. There is no question that they can, and do have a radiance that shines from within their hearts. That though is their most real and sincere beauty and they realize it too, knowing that when everything else in the world starts to fade that’s what they have to count on.

It’s that it’s important to remember that the truest standard of beauty that we can have, the most stunning of grace that can take hold of us is judged by the love in our hearts, the hope in our spirits, and the wonders we make use of in our souls. It lies in how we look at the world, at those who are in need around us and strive to help them, how we edify and uplift our fellow man making their lives just a little bit better. It’s the sense of charity and faith that guides us to imitate our Blessed Savior in the healing power of His touch, seeking to be more to those around us.

Sometimes this is hard for us to remember when we are bombarded with images of the perfect smile, the perfect body, the perfect hair, or whatever else it may be. We think life will just be that much easier, we will be able to get whatever it is that we want or feel that we need if we are a little thinner or a little better looking, if we have a little more hair on our head or whatever else it may be. Yet, in the end, when these things fade, we either end up struggling with the fact that they are slipping away from us, or we have the love and the hope in our hearts that guided us to be better people, to be stronger and more courageous of people.

Rather than trying to obtain beauty, be beautiful with a light that shines forth from your heart. Rather than seeing flaws or imperfections, see a person who has a chance to do more and be more with themselves today, knowing the gifts your Heavenly Father gave you, and using them to change the world around you rather than trying to change yourself for the world. You’re only as beautiful as you let yourself be, the question becomes how beautiful do you want to be?

God judges not by the physical appearance but by the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) What will He see when He looks in yours? Will it be the beauty of your love blooming? Or will it be a preoccupation with being exactly as you perceive you need to look?

Find your beauty within, and bring it out through love, hope, faith and charity. When you do, everything else will make sense in the wonders that it hold.

Don’t Cast Your Pearls To The Pigs

The Commands of Jesus Series

Matthew 7:6 “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.

Proverbs 9:7 Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt.

Jude 1:10 But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction.

“I get no respect” the famous line from Rodney Dangerfield could easily be used by God. Some people love to make fun of Christians and show complete disrespect for the gospel message, Jesus referred to these people as pigs. The pigs are a good word picture for the Jewish audience that Jesus was speaking to since they knew that the pigs were ceremonially unclean and they were repulsive to the Jews.

It is difficult to understand somebody being so bad off that we are excused from trying to persuade them to understand the gospel. Most of the Pharisees probably fit into this category of people since they were so self righteous and stubborn that they could not see the value of Jesus message. Most people do not fit into this category and I endeavor to share the good news with almost everybody without excuse.

Matthew 10:14 If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.

Thank you Lord for your gift of salvation, help me to feel the urgency to share the good news more with those that I meet.

God is Always There, Are You?

I have to admit that I find it hard some days but then I really have nobody to blame but myself. I just, well, I let it slip away and honestly I don’t know why. It’s not like I have a terrifically good reason as to why or what for.

It’s no excuse but sometimes, despite our best intentions, it’s just hard, isn’t it? I mean we want to take the time out of every day to dedicate ourselves and re-dedicate ourselves to God, to study our Bible, to pray a little more fervently and to just commit ourselves to the love and the hope that our blessed Savior has to offer. The thing is though that sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work out that way and before we know it the time is short before it just disappears.

I guess, perhaps, a part of me finds it too easy. Maybe, in the back of my mind, a part of me knows that God, He’s always going to be there, waiting for me. It makes it easy to neglect Him, to put Him aside when I have other things I want to do or need to do, figuring I can always come back to him later when I have more time.

As disciples, given to Christ, we’re all a little guilty of that now and then. We step away, knowing we can always step back when we need to, like the Prodigal Son, who goes on his own way, only to return home in his hour of deepest need to find his loving father waiting there for him. (Luke 11:15-32) Even if our story or what calls us back isn’t nearly as dramatic as his, it’s still a little bit funny how often we can find it so simple to be like him, doing as we will just because we can.

Yet, the simple truth is that though God will always be waiting for us, though He will always come searching for us as a Shepherd searches for his lost sheep, (Matthew 18:12-14) the longer we let it go, the longer we let ourselves slip or the further we let ourselves wander, the harder we find it to come back to Him. After all, one of the analogies often used in the Word of God to describe our life of faith relates to trees and to crops. The problem is that, if it is not nurtured, it does not grow, if it is not cared for, it withers, eventually dying that slow death that comes from going too long without being tended to.

Our faith, our hope in Christ, it needs to grows daily, it needs to grow with the careful love and the tender affections of hearts that are given to the Lord in the wonders that it brings, remembering that it offers to us all that we need to grow and to live and to find peace. (James 1:5, 2 Timothy 3:16) It is, after all, a blessed hope to all those who trust in it, and look to the Lord as their strength in a world where our endurance is tried day by day, by and by, giving freely and wondrously to us in all God’s love. It teaches us how to love our fellow man, how to live during those deeper crisis’ to our spirit, how to abide with courage in our times of deepest need and longing.

Challenge yourself today to spend a little more time with God, even if you think you have a good relationship with Him, even if you spend some time growing with Him and in Him each day. Spend a little more time learning at the feet of Christ and meditating on the lessons of that He offers to grow in the blessings of the Spirit. Even if you take a little time out of each of your days to do that already, take a even a few minutes more, reminding yourself there is always something else to learn.

Challenge yourself today to imitate Christ a little stronger, a little more. Show a little extra love to those in need, to those who struggle and search, and be a bit more in the lives of those around you. Change the world one life at a time, one day at a time by offering that healing power of the Spirit that mends the wounded spirit and the broken heart. Draw nearer to God by drawing nearer to those around you, by being more in their lives. You’ll be amazed the good that it can and will do.

Don’t stray or wait too long, and never think to yourself you are doing enough, figuring God will always be there. He may but you may not. Take the time, and never let it slip away from you, because, unto you, rich blessings and wondrous hope waits, for every step you make in faith, for every step you make nearer to your Lord.

Salvation belongs to the Lord

Jonah 2:8  Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.

Where are you looking to find hope in this lost world?  If you’re looking for hope to come from the government, or from financial security, or even the prospect of world peace, you’re going to be disappointed.

There’s no hope to be found in the things this world has to offer.  That may sound depressing, but there is good news.  Salvation is found in God alone.  Maybe you’ll never find hope where you’re searching, but God is holding out His hand for you to grab onto, offering you hope that you could never know without Him.  He’s for you and He wants to give you that hope.

Even though we waste a lot of our time looking in all the wrong places, only to be disappointed time and time again, it’s good to know that there is hope after all. It’s good to know that we have a loving Father who cares for us and provides for us a way to forgiveness and reconciliation.  It’s good to know that the Son, who is the radiance of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3) and who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17) stands between us and the Father to serve as our mediator.  It’s good to know that the Savior who rose from the dead will also raise us up when the time comes (1 Corinthians 15:16).

If you haven’t put your hope in Jesus, look to Him today.  He’s all you need in this life, and the next.

 

 

Pay Your Taxes

The Commands of Jesus Series

Matthew 22:17-22  Now tell us what You think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

18  But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” He said. “Why are you trying to trap Me?  19   Here, show Me the coin used for the tax.”

When they handed Him a Roman coin,  20  He asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”  21  “Caesar’s,” they replied.

“Well, then,” He said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”  22  His reply amazed them, and they went away.

Everybody hates paying taxes, we all probably think, “those guys don’t have a clue how to spend our money wisely so why should I give them more of it.”

These religious leaders were posing as legitimate Christ followers that wanted to know what Jesus teaching is on supporting the civil government, but there has never been a disguise that could outwit Jesus, he knew what there purpose was in asking the question.

Out of this quick discussion comes two rules that a Christ follower is to live by:

Give to Caesar what he is entitled to have.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to fight against the civil government, doesn’t the Bible teach us that those that are in authority have been put there by God.

Romans 13:1-2  Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.  2  So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 

Give to God what he is entitled to have.

Isn’t it strange that most people are afraid to cheat on their federal income taxes but they don’t worry at all about cheating God out of the tithe.

Malachi 3:8-10  “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated Me! “But you ask, ‘What do You mean? When did we ever cheat You?’ “You have cheated Me of the tithes and offerings due to Me.  9  You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating Me.  10  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in My Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put Me to the test!

Thank you Lord for opening the windows of heaven and blessing me, you are faithful to those that trust you in every area of life, I pray that I will always be obedient to give back to you in my tithes and my talents.

Crops and Weeds


Sometimes the decisions that lay before the disciple, they aren’t easy or simple when it comes right down to it. Searching for answers, searching for some greater enlightenment, for a path that is free of temptations, that is free of challenges or outside influences that can adversely affect us, we find that there are these pearls of truth that we find, but they are mixed together with things that are corrupt, things that are impure and that pose a threat to us.

Honestly, it’s not really that hard to find, even if you’re not really looking for it. After all, stumbling blocks, they can be anywhere and everywhere, even in the places we once thought that we were the safest as we try to live in this world and yet not of it. (Romans 12:2)

Even as we contemplate that we can get riled up about it, can’t we? We find that the more we look the more we see things that just shouldn’t be there. The more that we see things that don’t belong, the more we tend to find ourselves angry about it, the more we tend to get worked up about it, thinking to ourselves that something needs to be changed. It’s here that we tend then not to define ourselves by our adherence to what is right, what is a good and moral way for us to live, or the love that we are meant to show to others. Rather we express ourselves in terms of what we oppose because, let’s face it, it is easier that way.

The problem is, for as right as the opposition might be, or for as just as we may believe our cause is, an important question is never really asked even as we make our stand. It is the fundamental and core question that is centered around the Christian life that we are to live as the disciples of our blessed Savior given as in the form of that Great Commission. (Matthew 28:16-20) How does this win souls for Christ? How does this fulfill the mandate of His grand command for us?

There is a parable told by Christ in the Gospel of Matthew. (Matthew 13:24-30) It’s a story of these workers in the field who, when they awaken one day, find that, as they slept, the enemy of their master went into the crops and planted weeds amidst it. Seeing this they go to their master and they ask him if they should pull them up, if they should uproot them. The master’s reply is simple, “While you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”

Invariably there was a threat either way. Weeds, when they take hold, have the threat of strangling the life from a crop. They’re weeds because they move in and they take over, pushing and killing if they have the chance to. The master of the fields, as would any who had crops to care for, had to know this. Yet these were not just the weeds that pulled up easily, they sank in deep, they took hold deep. To uproot them meant to threaten at least a part of the crops, much more than would be at risk if they just let the weeds grow. So, for whatever the risk may be, he let them grow.

There are times when, despite everything that might be happening around us, this is a lesson we have to take to heart. Yes there are perhaps weeds growing around us, and they, without a doubt, pose a certain risk. Yet, in trying to stop them, from trying to rid the fields of them, we end up making it impossible for the crops to grow, or we end up uprooting before they have the chance to sprout. We make the harvest of souls that much weaker because we just cannot bear to see something that we view as wrong and we don’t think of the consequences of those actions, losing souls rather than winning them for Christ.

Look at your life, examine your faith and take a moment to find what it is that defines it even in a world that you feel is filled with weeds. How do you respond? How do you react? Take a moment to consider how you live and the way you react to those who believe something different than you or who have a differing point of view. Do you express yourself by what you are opposed to or by what you are meant to be in Christ? Do you seek to uproot the weeds at whatever cost their might be or do you worry about the crops and about what it might be that you will uproot with them?

Christ came in love, and it is love that He demands from His disciples, a precious love given in hope. (John 13:34-35) Show that even when it isn’t easy or simple, when the world as you see it is black and white but everything around you seems to be shades of grey. You can do more through the Spirit in patience and love than you could ever hope to by trying to remold it in what you perceive to be a perfect image, giving it time for God Himself, the author and the finisher of all things, to make it right in His time.

Watch and Pray

The Commands of Jesus Series

Matthew 26:41  Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Ephesians 6:18  Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

James 1:14  Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.

Jesus gives us the best strategy that we could possibly use to keep us from giving into temptation and he kept it simple too, that is important because we don’t need a plan that is hard to implement when temptation is so easy to fall for, we have to have something that is very doable.

Step one: Keep watch

Remember that your body is so weak and that it is easily enticed by the desires of our sinful nature. We have to keep a constant guard up because we are just one stupid decision away from doing something that will haunt us for a very long time. One decision away from wrecking our family, our homes and our testimony.

Step two: Pray

While it is good to be physically prepared and keep up your guard it is even more important to deploy the strategy of prayer to fight against the enemy. Jesus said that our spirit is willing but we have to overcome that weak body that is so ready to compromise. The only way to reinforce that wimpy body is to stay in prayer constantly, asking God to give us the strength and protection that we need everyday.

Lord Jesus thank you for providing a way out from every temptation. Help me to stay vigilant and praying at all times. I need to rely on you to help me to overcome.

Wounded Yet Not Slain

There’s an old poem, I think it was by John Dryden, that I’ve heard used, recited over and over at the end of a hard fought battle, at the end of a loss that has one damaged and hurt, that left them wondering and in pain. It goes a little something like, “I am sore wounded, but I am not slain, I’ll lay me down to bleed a while, then I’ll rise to fight again.”

I always liked that verse. In a life that is filled with trials, where triumph and victories are never quite assured to us, where they are never really promised to us, something about it always spoke to me. It always seemed to say that whatever life throws, whatever challenges it may have, it may damage us a little, but in the end, we are not dead until that moment when we are put in the ground or our ashes are spread around us. In a sense it becomes a question of how much fight is left within us when the moments of adversity hit.

After all, as Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

This is something that our Heavenly Father, looking down on the lives of His precious children, understands all too well about this world, isn’t it?

It begs the question, what struggles are leaving you wounded in your daily life? What challenges are you facing? What is leaving you wounded amidst the hardships that you face? Does it seem like it is just too much for you to face? Is it seeming like it is more than you can handle as you lay to bleed, lacerated by the deeper perils of this world?

As disciples of Christ it seems like they are there, lurking around every corner: temptations, trials, tribulations that push on us with a force that bears down on us with a crippling weight. As we struggle not to be crushed, there are moments when we wonder if we can even go on. After all, everything seems to be changing around us and we can’t see the world in the same way again.

It’s in these moments when we need to draw on the comfort and the assurances of a God who loves us. After all, He isn’t just a distant figure who tells us that, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 11:1) No, He goes further than that, reminding us that, through Christ, all things are possible for us regardless of whatever challenges may be there. (Philippians 4:13) We just need to lay our burdens at the feet of our blessed Savior to find the miracles of hope, (Matthew 11:29-30) that hope that abides in faith to give us the perseverance to go on day by day.

Perhaps it may seem like it is too much. Perhaps, left wounded and bleeding, we can’t help but weep, wondering to ourselves how we can go on. We are not alone in those moments though, we never have been, regardless of how it may feel. Even as our troubles mount and we feel at times like nobody could ever understand what  we are going through, the truth is that God has, through the lives of His saints, seen it all. Job, David, Paul, Stephen, and countless others, even our Savior, Christ Jesus, have faced the deepest and most powerful of pains, and found their comfort in God to move forward even when it seemed as if all had been lost and the burdens  were too much for them. As the Apostle Paul put it, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

As the world wounds you, dear disciples, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, find a place of quiet rest and lay down in the peaceful mediation of the Lord, remembering the words of David, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4) Faith, and a deeper understanding of it, a deeper trust in it, will let you abide in hope in the wonders of God’s blessed love and comfort, healing even the deepest of hurts and the most painful of scars, so that, with endurance, you shall have the chance to rise again.

Take that promise, take that love, and let it guide you in the wonders of the miracles that it offers you. In this world, with all of its battles, it is the surest weapon you have to protect you, the surest of medicines to heal you.

Forgive the Offenders

Commands of Jesus Series


Matthew 18:21-27, 32-35 Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

22  “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

23  “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.

24  In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.  25   He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold–along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned–to pay the debt.  26  “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’  27  Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

32  Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me.  33  Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’  34  Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.  35  “That’s what My heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

Matthew 5:7   God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving, it never wears out or goes out of style, the one gift that we needed the most. As much as we love this gift we are also supposed to re-gift it and let others have some.

Forgiveness is our greatest need, the desperate situation that we are in if we do not receive this gift through Christ. We have been pardoned by the king of the universe, his mercy to us is overwhelming and it is a great example of how we are to treat the people around us.

How can we understand how miserable our condition was without forgiveness and then we decide to withhold forgiveness from those that hurt us? When we see ourselves for who we really are and realize how much mercy that was bestowed upon ourselves, we will have no other reaction that to extend mercy to the ones that offend us.

The Bible is very clear that if I do not show mercy in the same measure that it was given to me then I am in a very serious situation, maybe I didn’t really get it when Jesus forgave me, I need to always remember the best gift that I ever received is the gift that I need to re-gift.

Help me Lord to always remember that debt that was canceled for my benefit and help me to extend that same mercy to those around me.